How To Polish Aluminum To Look Like Chrome – Explained

It’s important to understand that you cannot change aluminum into chrome and vice versa. However, there are super affordable ways to polish your aluminum to look like chrome. Of course, we’re talking about the same chrome look you’ll see on your door handles, bumpers, and sometimes even on the trim inscriptions on your car.

This is super affordable doesn’t mean it is super easy. How to sand and polish aluminum wheels is an artwork that consumes time. So, you have to be patient and grind through the process.

This guide will highlight the step-by-step instructions needed on how to polish aluminum to look like chrome. It’ll also answer some users’ frequently asked questions.

How To Polish Aluminum To Look Like Chrome – Step By Step Instructions

how to polish aluminum wheels by hand

Polishing aluminum to look as shiny as chrome requires three steps:

  • Clean the aluminum surface with a degreaser. This will wipe off any dirt and grease and make the work easier.
  • Apply the metal polish to the aluminum.
  • Buff the aluminum with a buffing wheel or soft cloth to chrome it like a shiny material.

Read Also: Best Cordless Car Polishers

Cleaning the Aluminum surface

The first step or secret to polishing aluminum is to clean and prepare the aluminum surface for buffing. This is very important and will make the work a lot easier.

Wipe all the grease, dirt, and debris from the surface and apply a solvent or degreaser. Also, check if any paint or finish particles are covering any part of the aluminum. If there are any, get rid of them with a stripper or sandpaper.

Sanding the aluminum

After the preparation, the next step is sanding the aluminum. Use sandpaper or a power drill with a wire brush attached to sand the aluminum.

Before sanding the aluminum, make sure you put on your safety gear like gloves and goggles. The waste aluminum particles can be harmful if inhaled or fly into your eyes. With your safety gears on, start by sanding the entire aluminum surface.

After that, sand the aluminum edges to make them sharp. This will ensure the aluminum surfaces and the edges have the same aesthetic feel after polishing it.

Sand any damaged or scratched areas. Ensure there’s no scratch and the entire aluminum surface is sharp and smooth before heading to the next step.

Cutting/Polishing the aluminum

Cutting or polishing aluminum may seem like a hard task, but it can be a lot easier with the right knowledge and guidance. Second, it is an inexpensive job.

Here, we’ll guide you on how to polish aluminum to be like chrome in your garage.

Small polishing task

If you have a small aluminum material to chrome, use a household item or home kit. Here are the ways and things used to polish your aluminum.

  • Get a clean and soft towel and toothpaste to buff out blemishes and scratches on the aluminum.
  • Get a bowl, baking soda, and water. Mix the baking soda and water in the bowl to make a paste. Rub the paste on the aluminum material and buff it in with a soft towel.
  • You can also create a polishing paste with vinegar and salt. This polishing paste will work fine on tarnish or light oxidation.
  • Another household item you can try is olive oil or lemon juice.

Larger polishing task

It is much better to do a polishing job on a large aluminum surface than on a small one. This is because you’ll need sanding disks and an aluminum wheel polishing kit, which will make it easier than using a hand. Sanding disks are available at any online or offline home improvement store. 

The disk should be around $30 to $50 for a pack of ten disks. However, the disks can wear out faster. So, replace the disks as soon as they become less effective.

To use the disk, get your drill, attach the disks to it, and set the speed to medium-high. The type of drill you want to use is your choice. For example, you can get a corded or battery-powered drill.

Submerge the disk in a bowl of water and leave it for some seconds or minutes. After that, attach it to a polishing pad. Then, start the polishing in a circular motion while maintaining moderate pressure. Do not apply much pressure for any reason. It could damage the surface you’re polishing.

how to polish aluminum


Q: How do you shine aluminum like chrome?

When aluminum material oxidizes, it creates a layer that prevents further oxidation. To get the aluminum shine like chrome, you have to polish or machine out this layer. If you polish chrome aluminum wheels properly, it’ll have a mirror-like appearance.

 It is an inexpensive task, and you’ll be amazed by how stunning the surface will be. Here are the guidelines on how to polish cast aluminum to shine like chrome.

Clean the surface by using sandpaper or a wire brush. After that, get one of the best aluminum polishes for a mirror finish. Spray the polish on a soft towel and apply it to the aluminum surface in a circular movement. Allow the polish finish to sit properly for around 5 minutes before buffing it with another clean towel. Orbital polishers will also do a perfect job.

Q: Can aluminum chrome?

Aluminum can accept several treatments to extend its durability. Chrome plating is a common treatment to extend aluminum durability. It has excellent adhesion properties that adhere to several properties. Of course, aluminum is no exception. 

Q: Can you wax aluminum?

Polished aluminum has a stunning reflective mirror-like surface, but it doesn’t last very long. The polish materials wear off after a few weeks. Trust me; it can be frustrating, unnerving, and troubling to have your polished aluminum wear off after a few weeks. 

Fortunately, you can keep the chromed surface for a long time by applying anodizing process, sealant, or wax on the polished surface. Waxing aluminum protects it from dirt and debris.

Q: Can you use steel wool to polish aluminum?

You can polish aluminum with steel wool, but I don’t recommend polishing your aluminum rims with any abrasives such as steel wool. It can scratch the wheels and leave metal shavings on them.

When these particles get damp or water dribbles on them, they may rust and make the rims or wheels look as if it’s rusting.

If you ignore it and leave these particles there for an extended period, it can also rust the wheels. Therefore, if you polish your aluminum with steel wool, clean off the metal shavings to prevent them from rusting the wheels.

Q: What kind of sandpaper do you use on aluminum?

While sandpaper is a good sparky abrasive for sanding aluminum material, don’t just use any type of sandpaper. Which one should you use then?

Silicon carbide sandpaper is the best sandpaper for all aluminum works. Depending on your work, you can start with 200 grit for an average to poor aluminum condition. If the surface is fairly okay, you can start with 300 grit. Use a higher grit as you work along.


Knowing how to polish aluminum to look like chrome is an inexpensive task that you can do in your garage. With the above guide, you can polish your aluminum to have a mirror-like aesthetic feel.

To achieve excellent results, follow the guides in this article religiously and repeat every step until you achieve your desired results. If you’re not a DIY type, you can search for aluminum wheel polishing near me to get some technicians to do the job for you.

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Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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